Energy Internet and eVehicles Overview

Governments around the world are wrestling with the challenge of how to prepare society for inevitable climate change. To date most people have been focused on how to reduce Green House Gas emissions, but now there is growing recognition that regardless of what we do to mitigate against climate change the planet is going to be significantly warmer in the coming years with all the attendant problems of more frequent droughts, flooding, sever storms, etc. As such we need to invest in solutions that provide a more robust and resilient infrastructure to withstand this environmental onslaught especially for our electrical and telecommunications systems and at the same time reduce our carbon footprint.

Linking renewable energy with high speed Internet using fiber to the home combined with autonomous eVehicles and dynamic charging where vehicle's batteries are charged as it travels along the road, may provide for a whole new "energy Internet" infrastructure for linking small distributed renewable energy sources to users that is far more robust and resilient to survive climate change than today's centralized command and control infrastructure. These new energy architectures will also significantly reduce our carbon footprint. For more details please see:

Using autonomous eVehicles for Renewable Energy Transportation and Distribution: and

Free High Speed Internet to the Home or School Integrated with solar roof top:

High level architecture of Internet Networks to survive Climate Change:

Architecture and routing protocols for Energy Internet:

How to use Green Bond Funds to underwrite costs of new network and energy infrastructure:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Speed Bumps Ahead for Electric-Vehicle Charging

The myth that thousands of EVs will seamlessly fold into the power grid by charging at night, using otherwise idle generating plants and power grids, is breaking down. Utilities worry that EV charging could black out the neighborhoods of some early EV adopters and give the emerging technology a black eye. Policy experts worry that the change in the grid's use could unintentionally muck up their green energy plans.
The urgency was palpable in comments by Saul Zambrano, director for clean air and transportation at San Francisco–based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), at a California Energy Commission conclave in October: "You've got to manage the runway. And from our perspective, we think the runway is getting short relative to the launch of these vehicles."

few thousand EVs won't crash the California grid, but they could cause local trouble, explains Doug Kim, director of EV readiness efforts at Rosemead, Calif.–based Southern California Edison (SCE), PG&E's neighbor to the south. Kim expects EV buyers to be concentrated in certain communities. Star-studded Santa Monica is already on his watch list. "We need to make sure that our local neighborhood circuits, including the transformers, are robust enough to support those additional loads," says Kim.
EVs need lots of power, especially when charged quickly. Utilities bet that most buyers will want a 240-volt charger that can "fill the tank" of a modest-size EV in 2 to 3 hours, four times as fast as a standard 120-V charger can. Such "AC Level 2" chargers, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers' emerging J1772 standard, draw up to 6.6 kilowatts. Turning one on is like adding up to three homes to a neighborhood, and that's with the air conditioning, lights, and laundry running.
Turning on two or three Level 2 chargers could burn out the street-level transformers that are the distribution grid's weakest link. Most utilities employ undersized transformers, which are designed to cool overnight. Without time to cool, sustained excess current will eventually cook a transformer's copper windings, causing a short and blacking out the local loads it serves.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

OECD recommends that basic research in ICT should be supported through carbon offset mechanisms

[The OECD Council has a agreed to a simple 10-point Recommendation on ICTs and the Environment to provide a framework for government policy to improve ICT-related environmental performance.,3343,en_2649_33757_45073498_1_1_1_1,00.html

One of the key recommendations:

“Members should support long-term basic research, and where possible stimulate research and development in resource-efficient ICTs and “smart” applications for example through technology-neutral tax incentives or carbon offset mechanisms, and encourage user-driven innovation.”

Boosting sustainable economic growth is high on government agendas. The Recommendation of the OECD Council on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the Environment supports governments to increase the environmental benefits of ICT applications and improve environmental impacts of ICTs. As governments embark on green growth paths, this recommendation addresses areas where public sector action can help overcome shortcomings identified in OECD reports on ICT and the environment. OECD analysis shows that most “Green ICT” initiatives concentrate on the direct effects of ICTs themselves rather than tackling climate change and environmental degradation through the use of ICTs as an enabling or “smart” technology.

The OECD Recommendation lays out a 10-point check list on how governments can employ ICTs to enhance national environmental performance. It encourages cross-sector co-operation and knowledge exchange on resource-efficient ICTs and “smart” applications, and highlights the importance of governments supporting R&D and innovation. By doing so, governments send positive signals for private sector investments. “Smart” electricity grid technologies for example have been receiving government attention and have attracted venture capital investments during the crisis, despite overall clean technologies seeing a dip.

This Recommendation applies to OECD countries and non-members. It is part of the wider OECD work developing a Green Growth Strategy to guide government policies. Governments and stakeholders will discuss related strategies at this year’s OECD Forum 2010 – “Road to Recovery: Innovation, Jobs & Clean Growth”.


For comments on the OECD recommendation on ICTs and the environment, please contact
Graham Vickery, Head of the Information Economy Group
Graham.Vickery [at]
+33 1 45 24 93 87.

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US government agencies to receive carbon offsets for new ICT equipment purchases

[Wow. This is very exciting news and shows how ICT companies have an opportunity for a whole new revenue stream in providing low carbon equipment and services in exchange for offsets – BSA]

Federal Green IT Program Offsets 100% of CO2 Emissions

More than a dozen federal agencies, including the Energy, Justice, and Commerce departments, as well as the Navy, are participating in a “green” IT program that enables them to buy new data servers and receive carbon emissions credits to offset their carbon footprint, reports Government Computer News.

In January, President Obama ordered the government, the largest consumer of energy in the U.S., to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent by 2020, which includes increasing energy efficiency.

Last year, federal agencies spent more than $1.7 billion last year on energy-efficiency projects, increasing their environmental spend by more than 80 percent from 2008.
The savings from the new program will be significant: cutting costs by $4.2 million over the next five years and nearly 24,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). 3PAR, the program’s sponsor, estimates that this is equivalent to keeping 4,500 vehicles off the road for a year or nearly 55,000 barrels of oil, according to the article.

The calculations include energy savings and carbon offsets purchased by 3PAR. As part of the program, 3PAR purchases one metric ton of CO2 offsets equivalent from TerraPass for every terabyte of storage purchased, which translates into 100 percent carbon neutral storage.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, data center energy consumption doubled from 2000 to 2006, reaching more than 60 billion kilowatt hours per year, and that number could double again by 2011.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Green Investment Opportunity for small business - on the move electric car charging

[I have long argued that we will not address the challenge of climate change as long as the utilities are in the loop. The utilities are very conservative organizations who generally think in terms of big mega-power projects and believe that all customers need five nines reliable power. Fundamentally, reducing power consumption is not in their self interest. They also struggle, for good technical reasons, with the issues of how to introduce large portion of renewable power into their electrical transmission grid. Also the cost of electrical power is going to increase because of cap and trade, even if the power comes from totally renewable sources. It is estimated that cap and trade will raise the price of electricity that is generated by coal plants anywhere from 60% to 300%. This will put competitive pressure on electricity that comes from renewable source as there will be increased demand for such electricity. As a result clean electricity will cost close to, or perhaps even cost more than dirty electricity if it is delivered over the same electrical grid.

If we are going to effect real change and create a new green economy we need to bypass the utilities. This was how the Internet revolution happened. God forbid, if the young Internet entrepreneurs of the day had to depend on the telephone company for the roll out of their Internet applications – we would still be using tin cans and string for our data communications.

A problem with most clean, renewable energy is that it is intermittent and unpredictable. One of the fundamental misconceptions many people have is that all applications need 100% reliable power. So a lot of research and development is going into building large storage facilities or massive continent spanning grids to distribute and load balance renewable power facilities in order to ensure reliable power. But a much cheaper and effective solution is to adapt the application to the availability of power. ICT applications are a good example. Computing services, clouds and networking applications can be quickly moved from site to site around the world where there is power available using high speed optical networks. This is the essence of the Greenstar project and several other research initiatives around the world. Next generation 5G wireless networks are also built around this same concept.

The same thinking can be applied to charging of electric vehicles. Right now there is a lot of hype about electric vehicles. But their Achilles heel is their limited range, expensive batteries and long charging cycles. There is also talk of using electric vehicles as back up storage devices for the grid – but this creates huge problems as most residential transformers are not designed to handle large power flows from the home to the grid. For this vision to become a reality the entire electrical grid will have to be rebuilt. It aint going to happen in our lifetime.

An alternate and much cheaper solution that does not involve any utilities is “on the move” electric vehicle charging. On the move systems work by placing a short power strip (remember the old slot car racing sets we had as kids?) in the road bed connected to a roadside windmill, solar panel array, or run of the river turbine under bridges. An inductive coil or direct contact probe is attached to the electric vehicle. A large discharge capacitor may also have to be installed. When the electric vehicle drives over the embedded power strip, it signals its request to purchase a short burst of power to recharge its batteries. The “On the move” system verifies the purchase request and energizes the embedded power strip to provide direct high current/voltage power to the vehicle – most likely through a capacitor to capacitor discharge coupling. The embedded strip is made up of many segments, each about the length of the electric vehicle, so that only the segment under the vehicle that requested the power is energized. The onboard capacitor in the electric vehicle slowly trickle charges the onboard batteries after driving over the strip. When there is no vehicle over the power strip it is completely de-energized for safety reasons.

None of the “on the move” systems need to be connected to the electrical grid and can be deployed and operated independently of each other. The only common requirement is a standard for the inductive charging and billing system. They can be deployed at all stop signs and traffic lights to allow for greater charging time when the vehicle is stopped at an intersections. Within urban settings the renewable power system can be located on a roof top and the power distributed using 400 HZ system over the existing copper to the street level “on the move” system.

On the move systems can be deployed by small entrepreneurs just about anywhere. Early applications include golf cart charging and campus vehicle fleets at universities and large industrial campuses. Charging golf carts is a big cost for many golf courses in both energy cost and frequent battery replacement because of frequent deep cycling. Shopping malls, drive through restaurants and banks are other excellent locations for “on the move” power strips. In the future you wont need to feel guilty using the drive-in as you will be doing it for good green reasons! Perhaps drive-in restaurants may offer inducements such as free hamburger while they recharge your car! Deploying “on the move” in public roads will require more extensive approvals and negotiations with various government and municipal departments.

“On the move” electrical vehicle charging systems address a number of short comings with today’s electric vehicles:
(a) It reduces the need for a large and expensive battery bank in the car as a smaller battery pack can be recharged frequently as the vehicle drives along the road, which also reduces the weight of the vehicles
(b) It reduces the need for a long recharge cycle after every trip
(c) Larger and heavier electric vehicles like buses and trucks can use the system perhaps with longer and more frequent power strips
(d) It enables much longer trips without stopping for refueling – whether it is gas or electricity
(e) It uses solely renewable energy and is not dependent on the construction of new nuclear reactors or power plants

Since on the move systems will use renewable energy there will be times where some roadways may not have sufficient power. Before drivers proceed on a trip they can check on the web to see which route is likely to have plenty of power for the on the move systems enroute.

If we are going to successfully address the biggest challenge facing the planet we need creative, out of the box solutions like this. It will be young innovative entrepreneurs who will come up with creative solutions – not your boring staid utility. – BSA]

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Alberta innovation: cap and trade and next generation broadband

[Many are surprised to discover that Canada is the biggest oil exporter to the US almost shipping double the oil that the US imports from Saudi Arabia. Most of this oil unfortunately comes from the Alberta tar sands – which are one of the largest emitters of CO2 in North America.

Alberta is as large as Texas and not unlike Texas is generally perceived as a right wing, conservative oil rich province. But despite this reputation and its production of dirty oil, Alberta has been a world leader in deploying cap and trade and building a province wide broadband network. Alberta implemented one of the first cap and trade programs in the world (albeit an intensity based system as opposed to a true cap and trade system) years before most people even heard of the expression “cap and trade”. As well Alberta deployed SuperNet – one of the first government sponsored open access networks to provide Internet service throughout Alberta.

One of the biggest issues facing Alberta is the potential for US Congress to pass a national cap and trade program. If this happens the Canadian government has publicly committed to implementing a matching program in Canada to insure there is no trade distortions between Canada and the US with respect to the cost of carbon. The TD Bank and Pembina institute estimates that that this will cost Alberta anywhere between $40 to $70 billion in carbon offsets. They will need to purchase these offset from the rest of Canada and/or internationally in order to comply with these programs. This will be a huge transfer of wealth out of Alberta in order to comply with a North American cap and trade program. This underlines the problem of many proposed cap and trade systems in that they can cause huge regional variances and disparities in terms of money flows.

While I believe anthropogenic warming is real and present danger to this planet I am not a big fan of cap and trade or carbon taxes. Cap and trade systems have worked extremely well in eliminating sulfur dioxide pollution. But these have been narrowly defined relatively small scale markets. CO2 cap and trade is a much larger beast as it touches so many industry sectors. Many CO2 abatement strategies are also very suspect. Already many CO2 cap and trade systems have been tainted with scandal and dubious claims of CO2 reduction. Combined with such huge regional financial disparity in terms of its cost, I think cap and trade will be a difficult sell in Canada as anywhere else in the world. They same issue lies with carbon taxes – although more likely to equitably distributed in terms of the pain – nobody wants more taxes disappearing into the maws of government (even though most governments claim such taxes will be revenue neutral – we have all heard that line before).

There are now several proposals for alternatives to cap and trade such as “cap and dividend” and “cap and reward”. Jim Hansen has also come out in favour of a scheme similar to cap and dividend called “People’s Climate Stewardship Act” which is very similar the Cap and Dividend bill now before Congress. In both situations there is an effective carbon tax and cap but the revenues are turned over directly to consumers who are then free to spend the money in reducing their energy bill. A variant of “cap and dividend” is “cap and reward” where the money raised from a carbon tax and cap is also handed over to consumers, but they can only spend the money on activities that further reduce their carbon footprint. Such activities may include next generation broadband, tele-working, distance education, downloading virtual goods over the Internet etc. Cap and Reward will hopefully create a virtuous circle of carbon reduction in all walks of life.

Alberta’s cap and trade intensity program is also running into many of the same problems as other cap and trade programs in that they are having a difficult time finding well qualified projects that will reduce carbon in a measurable and verifiable way. I think Alberta has the opportunity to once again show world leadership in adopting a province wide cap and reward program as an alternate solution. Much in the same way that Alberta deployed North America’s first cap and trade system and the first government funded province wide open access network, they could once again set the mark of deploying the worlds first cap and reward system. Rather than waiting for the inevitable cap and trade bill to come out of congress whether it is this year or 10 years from now, Alberta could do a pre-emptive strike by implementing a cap and reward program where the proceeds going to consumers could be used for the purchase of low carbon goods and services produced in Alberta. This would provide Alberta’s industry and education sectors with new revenue opportunities and demonstrate an alternate approach to addressing the global challenge of CO2 emissions.

For example Alberta operates Canada’s only open university – University of Athabasca. Its course programs and degrees could be offered for free in exchange for the offset dollars earned by families under a cap and reward systems. Clearly distance education over the Internet will have a very small carbon footprint. Alberta has also been a leader, through its provincial R&E network Cybera in deploying advanced cyber-infrastructure, clouds and grids. They also operate one of the nodes on the Greenstar network – the world’s first zero carbon Internet. Again these low carbon activities, as well as related industry projects could be funded under a cap and reward program.

But most importantly Alberta needs to address the challenge of deploying a next generation broadband network. Supernet was a wonderful achievement for getting broadband deployed to rural areas. But it not address the challenge of building high speed open access competitive broadband in the urban centers. A “cap and reward” system could easily pay for such a network deployment. Many of the energy companies in Alberta who would need to collect the carbon fees already have extensive fiber networks. This could be a loss leader opportunity for them to expend the money on their customer’s behalf in building a next generation open access fiber to the home network.

Of course all these low carbon activities need to be properly quantified to prove that they genuinely reduce CO2 emissions. Organizations like Canada Standards Association, ClimateCheck amongst others are now developing the necessary standards for the ICT sector to enable a successful cap and reward program.

Despite its reputation as a right wing conservative province, Alberta has the unique opportunity to use its oil wealth in solutions that do not penalize the province in terms of CO2 emisssions, but instead create new opportunities for its businesses and education sectors by promoting a low carbon society through a cap and reward program – BSA]

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

How UK universities and JISC are leading the world in developing solutions to address climate change

[Next week I will have the honour to speak at the JISC annual conference in London. ( JISC is funded by several university funding bodies in the UK to provide world-class leadership in the innovative use of ICT to support education and research. They manage and funds 189 Projects within 30 Programmes as well as provide 47 ongoing services to the higher-ed community in the UK. One of their major program initiatives is a Green ICT program directed by Rob Bristow. This is a world class initiative and definitely is putting UK universities at the front lines of developing innovative solutions to address the biggest challenge facing this planet namely climate change. This program undoubtedly will give UK industry and society a huge advantage compared to the rest of the world in adapting to a new low carbon economy. In my opinion universities should be the vanguard for developing innovative solutions. I am pleased to see the UK has stepped up to the plate in this regard. I am especially intrigued that one key issue that they have identified is the disconnect between the users of energy for ICT and the people who pay the bill, and JISC is funding a project investigate how that might best be addressed. Some excerpts from their web site – BSA]

Greening ICT programme
The Getting Greener programme will allow JISC to deliver on its key strategic priority of enabling the greening of ICT in the Higher and Further Education sectors through organisational change and harnessing the research strengths of the sector to help deliver solutions for education and the wider constituency.

ICT in UK higher and further education has a large carbon footprint. It is estimated that in the sector there are one and a half million computers, 250,000 printers and 240,000 servers which collectively produce 500,000 tonnes of CO2 a year and in 2009 cost the sector around £116m in ICT related electricity bills. The environmental impacts of ICT are not just in their energy use while in service. The whole lifecycle of ICT procurement and use consumes energy and resources both in manufacture and transportation to end users, and more in disposal – which itself can leave a legacy of waste, some of it toxic.

Environmental sustainability and climate change are considered urgent problems by governments worldwide and there are legislative and regulatory drivers for change. In his annual grant letter to HEFCE in 2008 the Secretary of State indicated that capital funding for institutions should be linked to performance in reducing carbon emissions . The Climate Change Act directs that emissions are to be reduced 80 per cent against 1990 levels by 2050 and at least 26 per cent by 2020.

JISC’s Greening ICT programme will be delivered via a number of strands of activity that will be embedded in a structure of support, synthesis and benefit realisation activities. The programme will seek to work closely with other teams and committees in JISC to ensure that duplication is avoided and opportunities for synergistic working are grasped.

Key objectives for the programme
• Greening the sector - attitudinal and behaviour change embedded across the sector
• New sustainable procurement paradigms
• Sustainability seen as key driver and yardstick for sector activities
• Harnessing of sector research activities
Intended outputs from this programme
• Substantive body of knowledge illuminating areas of uncertainty in respect to Green ICT
• Exemplar projects providing leadership and best practice example
• Reduction of sector carbon footprint and associated energy costs
• Increased capacity and expertise across the sector in sustainable ICT
• Improved reputation of sector and UK as leaders in this area
• Reduction in waste generated by ICT use
• Deliberative User Approach in a Living Lab (DUALL)4
• Does “Thin Client” mean “Energy Efficiency”?5
• Environmental Reporting for Green Outcomes (ERGO)6
• e-Reader Demonstrator Project7
• Green in Silico8
• Greening Events9
• How ‘green’ was my videoconference?10
• ICT Energy & Carbon Management11
• Planet Filestore12
• Powering Down Super Computers13
• Printing Efficiently and Greener14
• Review of the Environmental and Organisational Implications of Cloud Computing in Higher and Further Education15
SusteIT Software Tools: Data Collection and Enhancement

Greening ICT - Case study Queen Margaret University Video
Video available on YouTube1 Film created by Jon Mowat and Michelle Pauli. © 2009 HEFCE. This film is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales license.
• Rob Bristow2, Programme Manager, e-Administration
Mobile: +44 (0) 7825 823 282
Fax: +44 (0) 117 331 0667

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Must Read: Paul Krugman on Building a Green Economy

Building a Green Economy

. We’re uncertain about the magnitude of climate change, which is inevitable, because we’re talking about reaching levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not seen in millions of years. The recent doubling of many modelers’ predictions for 2100 is itself an illustration of the scope of that uncertainty; who knows what revisions may occur in the years ahead. Beyond that, nobody really knows how much damage would result from temperature rises of the kind now considered likely.

You might think that this uncertainty weakens the case for action, but it actually strengthens it. As Harvard’s Martin Weitzman has argued in several influential papers, if there is a significant chance of utter catastrophe, that chance — rather than what is most likely to happen — should dominate cost-benefit calculations. And utter catastrophe does look like a realistic possibility, even if it is not the most likely outcome.

Weitzman argues — and I agree — that this risk of catastrophe, rather than the details of cost-benefit calculations, makes the most powerful case for strong climate policy. Current projections of global warming in the absence of action are just too close to the kinds of numbers associated with doomsday scenarios. It would be irresponsible — it’s tempting to say criminally irresponsible — not to step back from what could all too easily turn out to be the edge of a cliff.

it’s the nonnegligible probability of utter disaster that should dominate our policy analysis. And that argues for aggressive moves to curb emissions, soon.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cloud Computing results in up to 50% savings for government (not counting energy savings)

[Here is a great post by Harry Wingo from Google at the forum hosted by the Brookings Institution this morning. Not only do clouds make significant savings in labour and equipment, they can also make a substantial dents in an organization’s energy costs. In a typical office building computers and peripherals consume 30% of the energy according to a Gartner report. So a powerful incentive for government IT departments to adopt cloud computing is to reward them with a portion of the energy savings, which they can then spend on new and enhanced cloud services. Cloud computing could go a long way in allowing government departments to achieve their new CO2 reduction target of 28% as mandated by President Obama’s Executive Order 13154. For more details on this strategy please see Some excerpts from Google Policy Blog and Brookings report-- BSA]

Google Policy Blog by Harry Wingo

If someone told you that they had an idea that could help government agencies function more productively while also cutting IT costs up to 50%, wouldn’t you take them up on the offer? That’s the kind of promise cloud computing holds, and that was the topic of a forum I just attended at Brookings Institution this morning.

I had two take-aways:

First, Darrell West of Brookings released a new paper concluding that the government agencies who have adopted cloud computing solutions have generally seen “between 25 and 50 percent savings in moving to the cloud.” For the federal government, West concludes that “this translates into billions in cost savings, depending on the scope of the transition.”

Second, federal CIO Vivek Kundra (pictured right) spoke about his new plan to streamline federal government agencies’ certification of cloud computing services, by creating a “centralized certification” board designed to speed up federal cloud adoption.

Conrad Cross from the City of Orlando was on the panel this morning as well, talking about how his city reduced IT costs by 60% by using Google Apps. And the City of Los Angeles -- which adopted Google Apps a few months ago and expects to save millions of dollars a year -- makes a cameo in Brookings’ report.

We’re big believers that governments ought to make sure cloud computing is treated on a level playing field in procurement decisions, along with desktop and server-based computing. Brookings made several recommendations in their new paper on how policymakers can do that, and we hope Congress will take up their challenge.

The U.S. federal government spends nearly $76 billion each year on information technology, and $20 billion of that is devoted to hardware, software, and file servers (Alford and Morton, 2009). Traditionally, computing services have been delivered through desktops or laptops operated by proprietary software. But new advances in cloud computing have made it possible for public and private sector agencies alike to access software, services, and data storage through remote file servers. With the number of federal data centers having skyrocketed from 493 to 1,200 over the past decade (Federal Communications Commission, 2010), it is time to more seriously consider whether money can be saved through greater reliance on cloud computing.

Cloud computing refers to services, applications, and data storage delivered online through powerful file servers. As pointed out by Jeffrey Rayport and Andrew Heyward (2009), cloud computing has the potential to produce “an explosion in creativity, diversity, and democratization predicated on creating ubiquitous access to high-powered computing resources.” By freeing users from being tied to desktop computers and specific geographic locations, clouds revolutionize the manner in which people, businesses, and governments may undertake basic computational and communication tasks (Benioff, 2009). In addition, clouds enable organizations to scale up or down to the level of needed service so that people can optimize their needed capacity. Fifty-eight percent of private sector information technology executives anticipate that “cloud computing will cause a radical shift in IT and 47 percent say they’re already using it or actively researching it” (Forrest, 2009, p. 5).

To evaluate the possible cost savings a federal agency might expect from migrating to the cloud, in this study I review past studies, undertake case studies of government agencies that have made the move, and discuss the future of cloud computing. I found that the agencies generally saw between 25 and 50 percent savings in moving to the cloud. For the federal government as a whole, this translates into billions in cost savings, depending on the scope of the transition. Many factors go into such assessments, such as the nature of the migration, a reliance on public versus private clouds, the need for privacy and security, the number of file servers before and after migration, the extent of labor savings, and file server storage utilization rates. Based on this analysis, I recommend five steps be undertaken in order to improve efficiency and operations in the public sector:


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Monday, April 5, 2010

Investment Strategies for Smart Grids and Meters

[I often meet with VCs and entrepreneurs who want to learn more about the revenue opportunities of Smart Grids. It is seen as the hot new technology that will create vast fortunes for next generation of entrepreneurs. For a long time I have been extremely skeptical of many of the wild exaggerated claims made about the current generation of smart grids and the opportunity to make a return on investment. However I now believe there some significant opportunities with some upcoming technology, especially in the 400Hz power space. But before we look at these technologies we must take into consideration several points of reality with regards to this smart meter/grid market:

1. The real price of electricity in most of the world, but especially in North America has been declining over the last 30 years. If price of electricity is dropping why do we suddenly need smart meters and/or grids? Why has this become so hot an issue?
2. Most utilities, perhaps excluding those in the UK, have surplus generating capacity. This surplus capacity has largely arisen from the de-industrialization of our society in the past decade. Much of this heavy industry has decamped to Asia and the third world and is unlikely to ever return. Why would utilities want to reduce demand for energy when they have huge surplus capacity?
3. New shale gas discoveries are significantly lowering the capital and operating cost of new power plants, especially those used for peak power demands. At one time the argument was made that demand side metering would eliminate the need to build power plants for peak demand
4. The power plant utility culture is extremely conservative. Their whole ethos is built around selling more power. Although they will pay lip service to various green strategies such as smart meters and grids, fundamentally they need to respond to the demands of their owners – whether they be government or shareholders and make as much money as possible selling power.
5. There have only a handful studies on the potential energy savings of smart meters. Savings of 10-15% are claimed, but this is usually with highly motivated individuals and communities. Real world deployment may result in significantly less savings. We all remember the early 500 channel broadband deployments that were done in Florida which failed after the initial enthusiasm in the beginning waned in the face of real world economics. I suspect today’s smart grids are going through the same peak of enthusiasm before the inevitable trough of disillusionment
6. According to the IEA, consumer electronics is now the biggest consumption of power in most home as opposed to traditional appliances. A lot of this power draw is from stand-by power consumption which has little effect on peak load demand. Demand type metering will have little effect on this type of load.
7. The largest portion of most consumer’s electric bill is not consumption, but fixed charges such as debt retirement, infrastructure upgrades, transmission line charges etc. Smart meters or grids will have little effect on these non-consumption charges.

It is important to note that there are at least 3 primary markets for Smart grids/meters:

1. Smart grid backbone infrastructure. This technology allows the utility to monitor phase, power factor, transformer efficiency etc. This market is dominated by companies like Eaton, Cutler-Hammer, Johnson Controls etc.
2. Demand Management systems and meters. This technology allows utilities to manage HVAC and other systems in order to reduce peak demand. Most smart meters being installed by utilities today are to implement demand management.
3. Load Management systems. This technology allows customers to more effectively manage their own load and hopefully reduce overall energy consumption. This is where most entrepreneurs and VCs hope to make vast fortunes.

My suggest investment strategies for smart grids/meters:

1. Use the Internet model of technology development. The Internet only came about because brilliant engineers realized that a new type of network could be deployed as an overlay over the existing telephone infrastructure without requiring any of the existing complex telephone control and signaling mechanisms. The same lesson needs to be adapted for next generation power systems. Avoid dealing with the utilities at all costs. The utilities are extremely conservative and fundamentally it is not in their self interest to deploy any technology that reduces demand for their basic service. We need technologies that will allow us to build a power distribution overlay network on top of the existing power infrastructure without requiring the approval of the utilities. Such a technology already exists and it is called 400 Hz power systems. They are used in aircraft and military systems. They can easily be adopted to run over existing power infrastructure at most institutions and campuses by multiplexing with existing 60 Hz systems. 400 Hz power systems are ideal for distributing power from renewable energy sources such as on campus wind mills and solar panels. 400 Hz systems are ideal for interconnection to ICT equipment which has steady but low volume power draw and can be easily adapted to variable power conditions. 400 Hz allows the disruption of power without being caught up in the complexity of interconnecting to the utility, feed in tariffs etc. They are also ideal for small community grids using renewable power

2. Focus on carbon not energy. Energy costs are getting cheaper and likely to continue in price because of surplus power and advent of shale gas power plants. The only thing that will make electricity more expensive is some sort of price on carbon. Despite the failure of Copenhagen and the latest machinations of the US Congress a price on carbon is inevitable. Regardless of whether it is a carbon tax or a more sensible cap and reward, or perhaps cap and dividend, electricity generated by fossil fuels will go up in price. Technologies and smart meters that can differentiate and negotiate between different sources of power will be important.

3. Focus on working with energy too cheap to meter. Remember that old slogan? Believe it or not it is possible to produce electricity that is too cheap to meter. But you aint going to get that kind of power from your local friendly utility. On campus windmills can produce very low cost power, although not free, in many cases it makes no sense to meter. The problem is the high degree of variability in power. Developing technology solutions ( in addition to storage) that are adaptable to highly variable will be attractive. Besides most proposed cap and trade plans call for at least 30% of utility power to come from highly variable renewable sources as well. The utilities will be desperate to find customers who can use this type of power

4. Focus on ICT. Computers and networks are the adaptable technologies to using 400 Hz and/or variable power. Reliability can be achieved through numerous such as clouds, distributing computing etc. ICT does not need a 5 nines reliable power system, just like the Internet never needed a 5 nines telephone system. If ICT composes at least 30-50% energy consumption in a typical building then removing this load from the 60Hz utility supply will have a big impact.

In summary these are the technologies I look for:

1. Consumer or intuitional grade 400/60 Hz multiplex power systems
2. Renewable power systems and electronics that can feed 400 Hz power
3. Adaptable ICT equipment that can use fluctuating power sources
4. Smart meters that can negotiate power from different sources such as renewable power, 400 Hz power and finally utility power

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